In an assisted living community, customer service is centered around providing care and showing respect to your customers: your residents and their families. Good customer service is easy to administer when your customers are happy, but your customer service skills will often be put to the test. There will be times when you must handle unhappy residents and upset family members who are dissatisfied with the service they are receiving. Handling complaints in a professional manner is a key component to assisted living customer service, one that shows respect for your customer and builds loyalty and trust.

Being an ambassador of good customer service means looking for ways to turn a negative situation into a positive one. You can do this by taking the

L – Listen

E – Empathize

A – Act with authority

D – Demonstrate follow-up

Listen. Give your customer, whether it is a resident or family member, your full attention. Make eye contact. If necessary, take notes to keep track of the facts and to show that you are taking their complaint seriously. Also, pay attention to more than what’s being said; watch body language, gestures, and facial expressions.

Empathize. Take a moment to put yourself in the person’s shoes and see the situation from his or her viewpoint. How would you feel if you were in this position? Showing empathy lets your customer know you understand and share his or her feelings. Respond with phrases like: “I understand,” “I can see that you’re frustrated,” or “I’m sorry this happened.”

Act with authority. Be responsible, reliable, and honest. Tell the resident or family member what you can and can’t fix. If you have to say no, state the reason before you say “no.” For example, “Fire regulations require us to…”

Demonstrate follow-up. Show that you care. Immediately follow up to see that the issue has been resolved to your customer’s satisfaction and not just to your own.

In any business, problems occur and mistakes happen. In assisted living customer service, it’s how you handle these situations that make all the difference. If you can learn the art of turning an unhappy customer into a satisfied one, you will create customer loyalty and build deeper relationships with your residents and their families.

For additional customer service training opportunities for administrators, caregivers, and other support staff, use SeniorLivingU’s caregiver training guides.